When LinkedIn first started out, it was largely used as a platform for individuals to post their resumes. It has since evolved into so much more than that. You can use LinkedIn not only to create partnerships and generate hundreds of leads every day, but also to position you and your business in a space where clients come knocking on your door to work with you.
The problem for many people is that they still don’t understand LinkedIn as a platform and don’t know how to interact with other users in the right way. It is vastly different from social media sites like Facebook and Twitter, and isn’t a space for relentlessly self-promoting your business or spamming your connections.
In this article, I’m going to be sharing with you a few examples of self-promotion that I’ve seen used on LinkedIn that are to be avoided at all costs, as well as some alternative approaches that are sure-fire ways to help you interact with potential clients in the right way.
First of all, let me just say that there’s nothing wrong per se with self-promoting you and your business. I understand its importance; however, do bear in mind the following caveats before you set about spreading you and your business around LinkedIn.
- Don’t be too keen! Many LinkedIn users think that pitching as a first interaction is the right way to go… it isn’t.
- Don’t pitch too often! There’s nothing worse than getting bombarded with pitches and enquiry messages from a connection you don’t even know.
- Ensure you self-promote to the right client! Make sure you know who you’re messaging before you do it, and make sure that they’re a good fit for you and your business. There’s no point in self-promoting to someone you don’t want to work with in the first place.
So, if you’re not self-promoting how are you supposed to use LinkedIn to get your services or products out there?
One of the most popular terms buzzing around at the moment is ‘Social Selling’. This is quite simply developing relationships as part of the sales process. As opposed to self-promotion, social selling is about creating a relationship of engagement with a client instead of forcing your service or product onto them. And while social selling may not be the most effective way of harnessing LinkedIn for your business, it certainly has its merits and can be a great way of getting started on the platform.
Here are three steps you can follow so that your business can start implementing social selling on LinkedIn quickly and effectively:
- Be informed. This is all about understanding your clients and what their needs are. LinkedIn is a great way of researching this, as you can read about the specific ins and outs of your clients by looking at their LinkedIn profiles.
- Be real. This is certainly linked to the three ‘do nots’ I mentioned above. Don’t spam your connections; instead, create genuine engagement in order to build trust and credibility.
- Create rapport. In order to ‘be real’ and prove your worth, set about creating and sharing genuine and relevant content with your connections. This way, users will see your business as something that provides real value.
Finally, we come to a slightly lesser-known term: ‘Social Serving’. And the reason that it’s not especially well-known is that, at the current time, only innovators are operating in this space.
Here’s a quick definition: Social serving is the process of existing for the sole purpose of solving the problems of your ideal clients and customers. It’s also the exact opposite of self-promotion. It is about aligning your company’s values exactly with your clients’ needs.
Like social selling, social serving relies on understanding your client. However, one of the major differences is that social serving doesn’t require a sales process. By working hard to deliver high-value content and solutions to your clients, as well as creating positive relationships, you place your business in a position where LinkedIn contacts and connections will be desperate to work with you.
As your business begins social serving in an effective manner, you’re well on your way to a wealth of new opportunities, including pre-eminence (more on this in the next blog post). When you reach this point, your approach to the sales conversation and pricing will be drastically different; the more value that connections and potential clients see in the business, the more they’ll initiate contact with you and be happy to pay premium prices.
When you strengthen your profile and begin harnessing the power of LinkedIn, you’ll realise that it really is the perfect platform for practising social serving (and achieving pre-eminence). My new book, The LinkedIn Playbook, provides a step-by-step process on how to implement the social serving strategy. It also features plenty more tried and tested tips on how you can replace standard sales techniques with higher-value methodologies that will mean that clients will be coming to you for business, rather than you wasting time and resources on self-promoting your service or product.